Editor’s note: Emergency food is available in Lassen and Modoc counties despite changes in providers for The Emergency Food Assistance Program administered by the USDA and the California Department of Social Services. If you need food, stop by the Salvation Army at 150 Main St. in Susanville during business hours or call 257-0314.
State representatives and local volunteers report emergency food is getting to the Lassen County residents who need it — despite allegations contained in a story published on lassennews.com earlier this week.
“There are no food shortages at any food banks serving Lassen County,” said Scott Murray, deputy director of the California Department of Social Services in a late afternoon email on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
Juanita Williams, of the Susanville Salvation Army, said food is readily available. She said her agency was not a TEFAP distribution site, “so we didn’t get involved until the Food Bank of Northern Nevada reached out to us (earlier this year) and asked us if we would become a distribution site if they were to take over the distribution. We said we would be happy to do that. We’ve done it in the past, and we know the program, so we’re happy to do that.”
But Williams said while her agency has food to distribute to the needy, it is not TEFAP food that traditionally comes from the Lassen Modoc Food Bank.
“The food is still coming, it’s just not the TEFAP food,” Williams said.
Williams said the news of the conflict over the distribution of food has raised many concerns among those who depend upon the program.
“There is still food, it just looks a little different,” Williams said.
Williams said to her it looks like a he said she said conflict between Foodlink and the state.
“There’s a whole battle going on between those two agencies,” Williams said. “I’ve been assured the food is going to come, and it has come,” adding she’s not interested in fighting about the provider, her interest is getting the food to those who need it.
Williams said state officials attended a meeting last week in Susanville, and one state representative said he’d received about 500 emails after Foodlink distributed a letter in Lassen County suggesting the supply of food was in danger due to the changes in suppliers.
While the letter allegedly distributed last month by Foodlink alleges the California Department of Social Services had abandoned Lassen and Modoc county residents who need the service to an agency in Nevada “as the state had no other plan and would leave the area without any food distribution,” Murray clearly disputes that claim.
According to a Nov. 3 email from Alice Walton, representing the California Emergency Foodlink, Linda Cristian, president/chief financial officer of the California Emergency Foodlink made the following statement: “Foodlink’s contract to provide Lassen and Modoc counties with food from the USDA’s The Emergency Food Assistance Program ended on Sept. 30. Any suggestion by the California Department of Social Services that Foodlink was asked to continue providing food beyond that date is untrue.
“CDSS officials knew they were ending Foodlink’s contract. Why didn’t those officials have a plan in place to continue providing TEFAP commodities?
“The food that these distribution sites are currently receiving does not match the quality or quantity of food provided under the TEFAP program.”
Curiously, Cristian responded to a lassennews.com request for more information and she provided two letters from the California Department of Social Services detailing the state agency’s plans for the future.
In an Aug. 21 letter, the state notified the California Emergency Foodlink that effective Oct. 1, “CDSS will partner with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada to provide the Emergency Food Assistance Program distribution in Lassen and Modoc counties. Effective Sept. 30, 2020, CEFL will no longer provide USDA/TEFAP food distributions in these two counties.”
In a Sept. 15 letter from DSS, the state advised the Lassen and Modoc county providers with “information related to the upcoming change to the state’s TEFAP provider in your counties.”
The letter notified them the California Association of Food Banks would provide monthly food distribution in Lassen and Modoc counties beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
According to that letter, “There will be no interruption or reduction in service as a result of this change.”
According to a Nov. 3 email from Walton, “Foodlink’s MOU to deliver food ended Sept. 30. The MOU was extended through the end of the year for other parts of the state but not for Lassen and Modoc.”
No one has offered a response to that question — why would the relationship between the food bank and DSS continue across the state except for Lassen and Modoc counties?
The good news — while this apparent noisy battle royale ranges between these two agencies — is that hungry people in Lassen County continue to receive the assistance they need.